It Started with a Tart


I used to have nightmares about tarts. I’ve been baking for years. I’ve read books, taken classes and have years of homemade pies and tarts under my belt; but for some reason I’ve never been confident when my hands touch that dough. It’s possible I’ve seen every possible pie dough related disaster: hockey puck tough, torn to shreds, crumbled to oblivion, shaggy, sticky, soggy, scorched. You name it, it’s happened to my dough; so when I found out our first week would be tarts, I said “Bring it on”

I’m in France …if there’s a time where I can give my tart anxiety the finger it would be now. It’s time to become one with the dough or “to be aware” as Chef Phillipe would say. I need to be aware of what Pate Sablee should feel like in my hands when it’s ready or that I rolled it to adequate thickness. I need to be aware that I have control over my dough and can successfully produce the tarts of crumb coated dreams.

We kicked off our first week of class with all components of classic French Tarts: various doughs, fillings and decoration with the patient (and often hilarious) Chef Phillipe.

Day one began with pate sablee (sweet dough) for a classic Tarte aux Pommes (Apple Tart). This is essentially the French answer to apple pie but lighter and much more elegant. I didn’t find anything unusual about this recipe compared to standard sweet tart dough except the addition of almond powder which the French use quite frequently and I sure as hell don’t mind!

The tarte aux pomme is filled with a light layer of homemade apple compote, followed by thinly slice apples. It is simple and uses far less flavoring than it’s American counterpart; but that’s what I like about French pastry—the ingredients speak for themselves.

Tarte aux Pommes

We used pate a foncer for our Tarte Flan (custard tart), which is essentially the French equivalent to pie crust. The recipe uses 100% butter (no shortening), so chilled butter is certainly key. The flan component is made like a classic custard, poured into a chilled, lined tart ring and baked until caramelized. It’s a very heavy, decedent tart.

Blind Baking Tarts

On Day Two we made the all time classic Tarte Citron (or lemon tarts) with a pate sucree crust. This dough is quite similar to pate sablee but uses warm butter and is much more difficult to work with. I needed more patches than a quilt when I blind baked my shell; but in the end it worked out. I filled the inside with fresh lemon curd and it was just divine.

Tarte Citron

We also made Tarte Bourdaloue which had poached pears, almond cream and slightly too much rum. Once again, we used pate sablee as the crust.

Tarte Bordaloue

Day Three was time for a classic Tarte Noire on a Pate Sablee crust. We made chocolate ganache using a mixture of both dark and milk chocolates and finished with a chocolate fan decoration. Dealing with chocolate decoration is a bit tricky (it really requires the perfect temperature) but I was satisfied with the end result.

Tart Noir

We also made a second apple tart called Tarte Alsatian on a pate a foncer crust. This was essentially just sliced apples in custard and the most rustic of the tarts.

Tarte Alsatian

Our Final Day we made Lunettes out of leftover pate sablee with raspberry jam from scratch. These are essentially the same thing as linzer cookies but with a traditional French shape found in most patisseries.



Finally, we prepared my favorite tart of the week, a fruit tart on sable breton. This crust is rich, buttery and very forgiving–by far the best crust we worked with. We topped it with classic French pastry cream and a mixed fruit decoration. Overall, I’d say I kicked tart week’s ass.

Fruit Tart

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6 Responses to It Started with a Tart

  1. Leah says:

    So fabulous! Congratulations on a fantastic first week!

  2. His majesty says:

    It started the same way with me, with a tart. But my story is not a sweet as yours. Love the writing, love the pictures. What a great opportunity, and it’s only just begun! We all miss — and envy- you.

  3. Lauri Candee says:

    Fabulous looking tartes — you go, girl!

  4. Pingback: If the Choux Fits… | Crumb Coated Life

  5. Purvi says:

    hi how do u make the chocolate fan decoration? What is the perfect Temperature.. Mine is always breaking.

    • Hi Purvi,
      Great question! It’s a bit tricky, but if your chocolate is breaking it’s clearly too cold. At pastry school, the chefs swore by these Heat Guns from Amazon. They would heat up your chocolate only slightly, making it more pliable for decorations. We would pour melted chocolate onto a flat surface (marble slab, back of a baking sheet both worked!) and spread in a thin even layer with a metal spatula. We would let it cool slightly until the chocolate is just set (no longer liquid). Then through trial and error, we would take a bench scraper or metal spatula and scrape up bits of chocolate, making the fan shape with our hands. You do not need to create one solid decoration, I used several small pieces of chocolate fans and layered them on this tart. If the chocolate starts breaking it cooled too much and you will need to reheat, either using the handy dandy heat guns or by scraping up and remelting the chocolate. Good Luck!

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